Little Big Top

One Dollar Circuses

A handful of circuses ply for trade in the poor neighbourhoods of Medellín. They pitch their tents on waste ground, basketball courts and empty lots of land in the poorer neighbourhoods in the city. It is cheap to enter, and take on the door is very often correspondingly low and making a living can be difficult for many in the circus. Many, particularly the older clowns, live very much hand to mouth.

The entrance to the shows can be a less than a dollar, and this income is divided according to one’s importance to the circus: the owner will receive more than most acts, though a real crowd-puller could possibly take more. On the bottom rung of the ladder are the aged clowns, and also children who begin as contortionists, and then usually graduate to be trapeze and high-wire artists. During the breaks in the perfomances the acts sell food and trinkets to the public: cut mangos, popcorn, toffee apples and the like are plied by clowns and leotarded assistants who weave through the crowd during the interval. Often, the intake from the food and sweets can be a better income than they receive from their share of the door intake.

At the core are traditional circus families like the Pachecos and Cortes, and newcomers like the Salazar, as well as a collection of drifters and performance artists who come and go. Circus children generally begin as contortionists and clowns, before moving to balancing, then wire and trapeze acts. When the body is old and spent the men end their days as clowns.

The concept of the travelling circus is believed to have originated in Roman times and was perhaps resuscitated by gypsies whose itinerant shows brought entertainment to European villages, towns and cities back in the 14th and 15th Centuries. Nowadays the competition for the public’s free time and money must compete with a myriad of diversions, yet still the little big tops of Medellín’s circuses continue to sprout up in the barrios, bringing with them one of the few remaining examples of local, shared-entertainment in today’s urban centres.

Circo Beat

Circos populares

Un puño de circos muevan por los barrios populares en búsqueda de clientes en el Valle de Aburrá, izando sus carpas en lotes vacíos y cachas de fútbol entre las casas de ladrillo. La entrada cuesta menos que un dólar y el ejercicio de ser cirquero muy a menudo es uno de supervivencia: lo normal es que payasos y trapecistas compiten por clientes mientras que venden mangos y mecato en el intervalo, lo cual pueda ofrecer mejor ingresos que reciben de la entrada.

Al centro de los circos hay familias tradicionales como los Pachecos y Cortes, y las más recientes como los Salazar, y también una colección de

aventureros y teatreros quienes llegan y salen de los circos según circunstancias. Los niños de cirqueros suelen empezar como contorsionistas y payasos antes de que luego hacen equilibrio, la cuerda y trapeze. Cuando el cuerpo es viejo, gastado y quebrado por caídas, los hombres suelen terminar sus días como payasos.

Se cree que el concepto del circo ambulante viene de los tiempos de los Romanos y quizá fuera resucitado por los gitanos cuyos espectáculos ambulantes traía diversión a las aldeas, pueblos y ciudades de los Siglos 14 y 15. Hoy en día la competencia para el tiempo y el bolsillo de la gente debe competir con un sin numero de alternativas, pero a pesar de eso las carpitas de los circos de Medellín siguen brotando en los barrios, trayendo con ellos unas de las pocas ejemplos de entretenimiento local y compartido que queda en nuestras urbes modernos.